Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Count to the Eschaton
aka: Count To A Trillion

Go To

The Count to the Eschaton series is a six-volume hard science fiction/Space Opera series by John C. Wright.

Menelaus Illation "Meany" Montrose, a Texas-born gunslinger, lawyer, mathematician, and astronaut, goes insane after injecting himself with an IQ-increasing Super Serum, and is cryosuspended during the interstellar voyage to the Monument, an alien artifact discovered orbiting antimatter star V886 Centauri which encodes the mathematical and logical formulae required to engineer whole civilizations.

He wakes to a Bad Future. In little more than 8,000 years, the alien beings who set up the Monument as bait to test younger civilizations' starfaring progress will arrive and enslave the Earth's population. Resisted by the remaining members of the crew—particularly his former best friend, Ximen "Blackie" Del Azarchel—Menelaus decides to spend the intervening millennia preparing humankind to resist.

Books in the series:

  • Count to a Trillion
  • The Hermetic Millennia
  • The Judge of Ages
  • The Architect of Aeons
  • The Vindication of Man
  • Count to Infinity

Tropes featured:

  • Abdicate the Throne: A theoretical solution to the Hermeticists' dilemma during the 25th century: they cannot send their starship back to V886 Centauri for more antimatter without losing control of the planet, but they cannot build another starship without losing their monopoly on the supply and again losing control, and if they wait until the antimatter runs out the World Concord will collapse anyway. Peaceful abdication of their rule while Earth still has energy to handle the transition is recommended as the optimum solution, but the Hermeticists reject this to a man. It turns out that Princess Rania deliberately engineered the dilemma in order to force this outcome, but she neglected to reckon with the Hermeticists' sheer pride and stubbornness.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Averted in that, while some of the many, many A.I.s created throughout the series do go insane or develop hostile motivations, none of them (except the very early ones who are not yet truly self-aware and sapient) do so as a direct result of their nature as artificial intelligences. The A.I. created as a copy/echo of Blackie del Azarchel, which Montrose dubs "Exarchel", retains Blackie's malevolence, and the A.I. created from the core of Jupiter goes mad, but the A.I. inhabiting the core of the Moon converts to Catholicism and winds up operating a religious shelter.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Some of the Chimera's weapons have to become this, because they have lost the art of changing the bloodlocks on them.
  • Arc Words: "Count to a trillion" is one, the length of time it will take for Rania's starship to return to earth; as is, possibly, "asymptote.", "Is my time yet come? Is my bride yet here?"
  • Batman Gambit: The eight thousand years of history between discovering the Monument and the arrival of the Hyades aliens turns out to be an exercise in this. Blackie del Azarchel allows his fellow Hermeticists a thousand years or so each to try building a biological and sociological version of humanity that the Hyades will value enough to enslave instead of exterminating, but each ultimately self-destructs in its own particular way until Menelaus (who, not having Blackie's immortality, has gone into suspended animation to wait for Rania's return) revives himself just long enough in each Age to introduce solutions to the problems, allowing humanity to survive to its next iteration. It turns out that each of the seven solutions provided by Montrose — solutions Del Azarchel knew Montrose could not refuse to provide when innocent civilizations were on the line — is a component to solve the final problem of creating true self-aware planetary-scale AI, and Blackie's real goal to thwart the Hyades is to turn Jupiter's core into a single god-scale intelligence using the solutions he tricked Montrose into providing.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Menelaus watches this trope in action. He doesn't approve.
  • Big Dumb Object: In the final novel Count to Infinity, Menelaus and Rania discover a cosmic superstructure dubbed the Eschaton Directional Engine, built by multiple ancient Galactic Supercluster Intelligences (dubbed Seraphim in the series). This is Wright's version of the Real Life "Great Attractor". The purpose of the Eschaton Directional Engine is to determine the fate of the universe, of either Heat Death or Big Rip: when activated, it can bend spacetime either positively, into a sphere that neutralizes entropy throughout the entire universe, or negatively, into a "potato-chip" shape that will save only a tiny fraction of the universe.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Just before meeting princess Rania in volume one, Menelaus attends a new year celebration where the attendants shout in Dutch: "De God redt de koningin!" While gramatically correct, this is something a native speaker of Dutch would never say. It's obviously intended to be a translation of "God save the queen", but what it actually means is "The God is rescuing the queen" (As in, God is rescuing the queen right now). Also, "de" is a definite article, which just like in English one would omit when referring to the monotheistic god.
  • Brain in a Jar: Explicitly shows up in Architect Of Aeons. Menelaus is stuck on the sidelines, of a Duel to the Death that he set up, where one of the participants is a "whale-sized" Transhuman (and the other uses Jupiter as a computer's CPU). Due to events, the Transhuman ends up dying in a messy way, while dropping a 'trinket': Menelaus' original brain kept for sentimental reasons.
  • Broad Strokes: Some cultures' versions of past history are... strange. The Witches, for example, believe that C. S. Lewis and Arthur C. Clarke explored the Louisiana Territory in 1492...
  • Brother–Sister Incest: In the nymphs' language, the word "brother" also means "homosexual incestous partner".
  • The Captain: Princess Rania commands the world's only functioning starship.
  • Christianity is Catholic: Justified. Blackie del Azarchel suppressed all religions other than Catholicism because he himself was culturally Catholic, and Menelaus later makes use of the institution because it is The Constant.
  • Crapsaccharine World: What the utopian Earth of the 25th century, under Rania's and the Hermeticists' World Concord, ultimately turns out to be, despite its luxury, wealth, super-technology and virtually-infinite available energy: any polity which makes efforts towards political independence or truly free elections is swiftly quashed, and the Concord's need to maintain its monopoly on the antimatter supply enabling their power means they cannot allow the building of any other starship capable of mining antimatter from V886 Centauri ... nor can they send the NTL Hermetic itself back for more due to needing it to play orbital police platform, which has effectively doomed the Concord to inevitable collapse once the current finite supply of antimatter eventually runs out.
  • Culture Clash: Competing cultures from different eras, all woken at once, result in much of this. Most amusingly done when the relatively-prudish Blue Men interview Oenoe.
  • Doctor's Orders: Menelaus can talk casually with the effective ruler of Earth. When he must be examined by a doctor, he finds it much harder to assert himself.
  • Endless Winter: In Count To A Trillion, Menelaus's first spring is when he is six. The younger characters regard it as this. The older ones hush them: the Japanese created it deliberately, in order to fight a disease, and if they hadn't, mankind might have gone extinct.
  • Ermine Cape Effect: The clothes of the Hermeticists use symbolic references to underscore their power.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Del Azarchel's hatred of Montrose is driven in large part by his inability to understand why Rania loves him, which reflects a general larger failure to understand Rania's hope-based worldview.
  • Evolutionary Levels: Used to soothe the conscience, by some characters.
  • Extreme Omnisexual: Nymphs, throughout their culture; those who do not like it are given a chance to cryogenic sleep to a more pleasing time to them.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Averted, the entire series is structured around the effective impossibility of traveling faster than lightspeed in the physical universe, and the need for any starfaring society to become incredibly long-lived, stable, and rigorously trustworthy in order to maintain interstellar transport logistics.
  • Fictional Field of Science: Cliometry, the art of mathematically engineering the progress of entire cultures and civilizations and predicting the outcome of future sociological events.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Lady Ivinia talks of her silence, her obedience, and her gentleness while ordering men about in a long speech, commanding them to fight war and win or commit suicide.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Rada Lwa's justification of his attempted murder of Menelaus. Dropping a satellite on Menelaus was a necessary act because it was the outcome of deorbiting the satellite, which was necessary to stop Menelaus' military control over the world. It was a necessary act, therefore not murder. On the other hand, Menelaus killing De Ulloa was murder because Menelaus actively attempted to cause harm.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Oenoe agreed to something to please her beloved, which is why she is in the Tombs.
  • Men Don't Cry: Menelaus' mother insists on this when punishing him, during his childhood, for wasting valuable education time on frivolous animated cartoons, forcing him to delete all his beloved Asymptote episodes.
  • One Head Taller: Mentally invoked by Menelaus after Princess Rania's growth spurt: "He hated the fact that the top of her head no longer fit nicely under his chin when they hugged... it seemed obscurely unnatural, as if someone had made a mistake when putting the universe together."
  • Ominous Floating Castle: In The Judge of Ages, there is the villain's floating tower which is even described as ominous. It may be the largest one in literature, 165,000 miles high, and has more surface area than China.
  • Parental Incest: A nymph casually mentions that they expect a man's first sexual partner to have been his mother. The term for "father" also implies a sexual relationship.
  • Pet the Dog: Discussed and subverted. Menelaus at one point concludes that another character can like dogs and still be all bad.
  • Politically-Active Princess: Rania is definitely one, though as part of her political and personal style she also presents herself to be as close to the Princess Classic as possible to maximize her subjects' loyalty.
  • Princess Classic: In a lot of ways Rania is also this in reality, especially as the series' single most optimistic and hopeful character.
  • Proud Warrior Race: The Chimera. Lampshaded by one of them, who, hearing of the "battle for Antarctica," asks exactly who was fighting for what down there.
  • Reverse Psychology: One character argues with Menelaus as if he wants him to do the opposite.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Menelaus swings between "aw shucks" Texanisms and ultrafluent Lawyerese or Antiquated Linguistics. An alert reader can detect when Menelaus' mind is fully engaged by a problem, because he forgets to maintain his Texanism affectation.
  • Spotting the Thread: How Menelaus eventually realizes in The Vindication of Man that the Rania who returns to him from M3 is not the genuine article; despite being physically identical and superficially the same personality, she has stopped celebrating Mass and practicing her faith.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Lady Ivinia explains that this is her place, not councils of war, so she merely "reminds" the men they have a duty to overcome the foe they face or commit suicide for failure.
  • They Have the Scent!: The dog things invert it — by howling with frustration, they show they don't have the scent.
  • Time Abyss: To quote the author, the story will be followed to "the year Oh-My-Gosh-That's-A-Lot-Of-Zeroes".
  • Title Drop: "Counting to a trillion" is a metaphor in the first two books for something true but outside your ability to handle; also how long it will take Rania to return.
  • Unreliable Narrator: In The Hermetic Millennia, large sections are first-person accounts by people who are not to be trusted.
    • In-universe, the Monument itself turns out to be one.
  • Wake Up Fighting: Menelaus coldsleeps with loaded pistols in his hands for this purpose. It doesn't help him much in Hermetic Millennia.
  • Wham Line: In The Architect of Aeons (the last chapter), Menelaus ends up viewing the death of a Transhuman body the size of a whale... then it turns out that this is also Menelaus, and out of nostalgia​ this one kept "their" original brain in a jar (that happens to fall next to the viewpoint Menelaus, allowing him to realize this. And... end of book.

Alternative Title(s): Count To A Trillion, Hermetic Millennia, The Hermetic Millennia